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Canucks' Mitchell criticizes head shot policy @NHL

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -Canucks defenseman Willie Mitchell doesn't like how the NHL has handled hits to the head, saying discipline was warranted for the shot that cut his season short.

"I am disappointed in the league, disappointed in Colin Campbell," Mitchell said Thursday of the NHL vice president who handles the league's discipline. "As we've seen (he's) been very inconsistent with how he's handled himself in those situations."

The Canucks were eliminated from the Western Conference semifinal in six games by the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this week and were cleaning out their lockers Thursday.

Mitchell was speaking to the media for the first time since he suffered a concussion in a Jan. 16 game after a hit by Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins send him head first into the boards.

He suggested Campbell has been reluctant to suspend some players because of his relationship with the NHL's general managers and owners.

"I think the league needs to, along with our players' union, take a look at how they run the discipline in the league," Mitchell said. "Colin Campbell had a lot of relationships with general managers and ownership and stuff like that. It's very tough to hand down decisions on matters like this when you are friends with people.

"It's something the league and players need to look at, to have an outside party handle the discipline in the league (so) it's consistent. As we've seen it hasn't been very consistent."

Neither Campbell nor NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly immediately returned e-mail messages Thursday.

Mitchell also has been on the other side of the issue. His crunching, open-ice hit on Chicago's Jonathan Toews resulted in a concussion that forced the Blackhawks star to miss six games.

Still, Mitchell said there's no doubt Malkin should have been fined or suspended for his shot.

"I'm not happy with the hit I took," he said. "We're taught from a young age you don't hit from behind.

"I had my numbers facing a player in a dangerous zone and a dangerous spot and he hit me."

Mitchell said he still suffers symptoms from the concussion such as headaches and pressure in his head. For a long time after the hit he was bothered by bright lights, loud noises and couldn't watch television.

The 33-year-old spoke slowly, with many pauses.

"It's been a long physical journey and an emotional journey," he said. "I am feeling much better than I was before. I am getting better every day. I've been trying to put myself in the best place possible to be in a healing environment."

Mitchell becomes a free agent this summer. He's not sure what his hockey future will be.

"I just want to be healthy," he said. "I am doing all the right things to be healthy."

Mitchell said he'd rather have the league deal out justice for head shots than have the players even the score.

"Back in the day players regulated that," he said. "We all know that has changed.

"Society doesn't want it, players don't want it. Who has to regulate it? It's Colin Campbell. He has to regulate it."

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